How to be creative: habit, visual journal prompts and intention

An art or visual journal differs from a traditional journal in that the traditional journal consists of written text and an art or visual journal consists of visual creativity in the form of image: photography, painting, collage etc. Your visual journal is a great place to house your creative work in one place.

Sometimes we want to be creative but we don’t know how. We want to produce something good, but we fear producing disappointing work. We know that we just need to get started and get over those fears but sometimes it can be hard.

Consistency is going to help you to be creative. Making a start is what is important.

What really gets results is habit, not prompts

I love reading all the lists you can view online of art journal prompts. In fact we have our own list of prompts here: Art Journal Ideas. Although visual journal prompts are a great motivator, what will really get you the results that you want is to stick with your practice long term and develop something where you can see the improvements over time and you can be proud of yourself for what you have produced.

Sticking with something over a long period of time was the subject of a recent podcast on the happiness lab. It seems that what makes us happy is sticking with something over a long period of time and gradually developing a mastery in it.

You don’t need to be a professional artist to develop mastery in this area either. Just find something you want to do and commit to it. For an amateur artist who’s work has developed over the last few years through practice see RBanks makes.

image of a hand writing in pencil into a journal with squared lines. Accompanies the blog post on visual journal prompts

Useful mental approach techniqus for visual journal prompts

So this blog post is going to be slightly different to the blog posts which list out prompts, some of which I think are not massively helpful in helping you develop skills and good practices and overall mastery of your chosen field.

We are going to go through what kind of mental approach you need to help turn visual journal prompts into something that will change your life and develop you art.

I’ve created a table of contents so you can read through the post and then refer back to those areas which are most of value to you:

The private power of your own art journal

Your own art journal is your own place and that blank page is yours to do exactly what you want with. Make it your own unique environment. It’s a great way to stamp your mark on this world, even in a small way.

Don’t be afraid to try new ideas, experiment with different mediums, come up with new creative ideas or produce a piece of art entirely different to what you would normally produce. More of that further down the page.

Image of a woman sitting cross legged on the floor. She is smiling and looking at the camera. Her hair is pulled back off her face, she is in casual clothes: red trousers, blue tee shirt and cream cardigan. She is sketching with a pencil in her black art journal. Accompanies the blog post on visual journal prompts

Regular practice

Regular practice is what will really help you develop and improve your visual journal. A prompt may be good for one day but what is going to get you to the next day? It is establishing a regular time to spend on your journal and making that regular time a habit. A habit doesn’t happen by chance. It is a deliberate decision.

Your comfort zone

If you want to improve at anything you are going to have to get out of our comfort zone. The first thing that you will need to set aside is your ego and the second thing you will need to set aside is your fear of failure. You are going to fail and you are going to feel foolish. And that’s ok. Everyday life does not set us up for success, it sets us up to feel safe, to create places to hide. If you want to develop great ideas, you’re going to need some great questions and an open mind when you answer them.

You don’t need to be a ‘creative person’ to create your own art journal

Many people want to express their thoughts and emotions visually but don’t think of themselves as a creative person. They didn’t take art classes at school, their academic qualifications are all, well, academic rather than creative. But, you know, that really doesn’t matter. If you want to create, then start to create. It’s as simple as that. See 65 easy art journal ideas that spark your inner creativity for some ideas to get you started.

Enjoying the process

The good news is that art journaling ideas should be enjoyable ideas to have. Keep them in a specific journal or create a journal this is just devoted to visual journal prompts. Stick in pictures, write about the inspiration they have given you, date them. Do whatever you need to do to create enough inspiration around those images that if you return to them a month later you are still inspired by them.

Enjoy your creative process . Treat it like a game. As adults we need to carve out time to ‘play’. I know I am really bad at doing this. ‘Play’ for adults is just as important as it is for children. Play does all sorts of great things to our brains! So try and use your preparation time as a really fun, enjoyable gift of time to yourself.

Woman sitting in bed holding her journal up to her face. You can see her striped jumper and the fleece blanket on the bed but not her face. Accompanies the blog post on visual journal prompts

Creative ways to get started

Make an intention

In order to get started on your creative journey you just need to set an intention. Your first intention is to decide where you are going and for this purpose your visual journal prompts are going to be really useful. Whether it’s a favorite song or favorite quote, whatever you need to give you that visual stimuli you need is the perfect prompt for you. Visual prompts are really powerful in the moment. The trick is then to be able to take the stimulus of the prompt and carry it long term into your work of art. (see above about creating a journal for storing visual journal prompts).

Creating visual journal pages

Choose your subject matter

The choice of subject matter for your visual journal is entirely up to you. There are many beautiful art journals so you could start with your favorite flower. Draw your flower every day for a certain time period, say a week but not in your journal. Draw or paint the flower on separate pieces of paper. Then use what you have created and stick it on a page of your journal. Then, use that image to create your journal page around it

Different stylistic approaches

With whatever topic you have chosen, try and create your art in different ways. Use different media partly to portray your subject idea in different modalities and partly to give you experience in a variety of media rather than becoming bogged down in one media only.

Giving yourself a challenge and creating 30 different looks in 30 days can be one of the best ways to kick start your improvement campaign. Or try water colour for one month, gouache for a second month, oil for a third month and so on.

Decide how you are going to establish this practice. When are you going to sit down with your tools and create. In the evening? On a Sunday afternoon? Make a date with yourself and get it ingrained into your regular routine. Just think of what you could achieve by sitting down for half an hour each evening? Over time you could see amazing results, for such a small time commitment.

Layering up your journal

We call this technique layering up. It is the process whereby you start and create one image on a single page. Then you take that image to your next art journal page, you fix it to that page and then you build up a new image from there. Not only does this get your creative juices flowing, but it is a lot of fun. Plus you are creating something that is uniquely your own.

Go deeper

One of the reasons we think layering up works so well with art journals is that the process is like its own series of visual journaling prompts and each prompt encourages you to go deeper. You start with the first image, then you transfer the image to a new page on your sketch book or journal. And from that transfer a new image then arises.

If that is you, wanting to be creative but not knowing how to get started then creative art journal prompts can be a great way for you to start on a creative process of your own.

Woman with long red hair in a pony tail sitting at a desk writing in her journal She is wearing a long sleeved dark blue tee shirt. Accompanies the blog post on visual journal prompts

Different media

Use whatever visual prompts inspire you. I keep many old magazines and find them really inspirational. Any visual image that you find inspiring is the right prompt for you. I’ve mentioned about about using different medium: acrylic paint; watercolour paint; everyone is talking about washi tape; different kinds of paper; photography; line drawing. Whatever you want to experiment with, have a go. You know, if you don’t like it you can throw it away. It’s as simple as that!

Visual writing prompts

Sometimes the best way into your visual work is through the creative writing. In fact any time you need to get in the right mindset for anything I wolud recommend journaling your way in first. You can use your bullet journal for this if you keep one, and create a new collection for this purpose. Journaling is a powerful tool, especially into art, so give it some time. Journal as you create your art. (again, see above about creating a journal for storing visual journal prompts).

What we have covered in this blog is:

What really gets us results is habit not prompts, useful mental approach techniques such as regular practice and addressing your comfort zone, getting started, making and intentional and using visual writing prompts to record your visual journal prompts. Now, over to you, time to create!

If you liked this blog post you may also like:

How to create art: easy art journal ideas for beginners
Release your inner creativity with creative journal ideas
Simple Mindfulness journal prompts and practices to appreciate life better

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